When the season starts, the Texans fully expect to be Super Bowl contenders. Why shouldn’t they be, after going 10-6 and making the AFC semifinals last year, despite having their top 3 offensive players (Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster) healthy in the same game just twice (2-0, by the way)? However, before the season starts, the Texans have some matters to attend to in terms of locking down their core.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are expected to start extension talks with Duane Brown, a 2008 1st round pick, and Connor Barwin, a 2009 2nd round pick, before the season. Brown and Barwin were among the best players at their respective positions, offensive tackle and rush linebacker, last year and deserve hefty contracts. Brown was ProFootballFocus’ 3rd ranked offensive tackle last season, as he did not allow a single sack on 576 pass attempts, while only surrendering 4 quarterback hits and 23 quarterback pressures and committing 5 penalties.
Barwin, meanwhile, had 12 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, and 28 quarterback pressures on 598 pass rush snaps and rated 12th at his position among eligible players in pass rush efficiency (sacks + .75(hits) + .75(pressures)/pass rush snaps). The Texans have some cap room to spare and likely got rid of starters Eric Winston and DeMeco Ryans, while letting other key contributors, Mike Brisiel, Joel Dreessen, and Jason Allen leave, with this in mind.
The Texans have to be hoping to get both signed this offseason, to free up the franchise tag for Matt Schaub. If they get to only extend one, Brown seems like the most likely candidate, given how rarely left tackles are allowed to hit the open market, and given the Texans’ rush linebacker depth with Brooks Reed and 2012 1st round pick Whitney Mercilus.